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NebuAd CEO Quits & More Phorm Crap

Good news for those fighting against the intrusion into our online privacy by companies such as Phorm and NebuAd. Phorm acts to reassure investors as its share price drops and the Metropolitan Police finally start to invvestigate BT’s illegal (in my opinion) secret trials. Only after their poor response was made public by Alex Hanff (nice work Alex!).

Chris Williams reports in The Register that NebuAd CEO Bob Dykes has quit as CEO. NebuAd can be described as the US equivalent of Phorm.

As Chris writes,

NebuAd had recruited about half a dozen small US ISP partners to tests of its technology earlier this year before the storm over Phorm blew across the Atlantic. Dykes then suffered an uncomfortable grilling by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, when he equivocated over the vexed question of opt-in versus opt-out.

All of NebuAd’s ISP partners have now switched off its systems or canceled further tests, a move that this weekend prompted the AP to wonder out loud what hope the firm now has. Unlike Phorm, NebuAd is privately funded, and it would be a brave investor who would sink more money into it now in the hope of waiting out the controversy.

The article concludes with a nice outlook (if you care about your online privacy, that is)

The outlook seems increasingly bleak for ISP-level adware.

Then the next day Chris reported that

After its share price slumped to a new low, Phorm today sought to allay investor fears about the ISP-level adware business by repeating assurances that a critical third trial with BT will go ahead.

Yesterday Phorm closed at £5.80, an all time low. The announcement seems to be having the desired effect; at time of writing Phorm’s stock is up more than 16 per cent at £7.12. Its February peak at £35.04 remains a distant dream for stockholders, however.

Phorm’s latest slide followed newspaper stories in the US in the past few days that voiced serious doubts over whether its business will ever gain public or regulatory acceptance. Yesterday Bob Dykes, the founder of Phorm rival NebuAd, quit as its CEO.

The report continues

Elements within BT have also resisted the group’s close association with Phorm on grounds it is damaging to the Global Services division’s security brand.

Just like Virgin Media’s reputation is taking a damaging hammering because of its association with Phorm. The fact that Virgin Media were still spinning Phorm when I fired them suggests Virgin Media are desperate to find some justification for going live with Phorm because they need the money.

The article also reports on the status of the potential implementation of Phorm by Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse. Remember that Virgin Media issued a bitchslapping release correcting some of Phorm’s claims a while back? This response is more measured. Whether Phorm still have a surfeit of PR companies working for them isn’t completely clear.

On Friday 5th September Chris reported that

City of London police questioned BT earlier this week as part of a probe into the covert wiretapping and profiling of the internet use of tens of thousands of BT customers during tests of Phorm’s adware system.

Finally. Only after people had written to their MPs, MEPs, Peers of the realm, the ICO, the European Commission…

And Alex Hanff had published details of his dealings with the Metropolitan Police online including phone call recordings. Coincidence?

The law is the law. It should apply to everyone and be enforced against those who break it. That includes a major telecoms company which is (IMHO) trying to hide behind technical excuses and a wrong interpretation of the law. My grandfather often said that he thought coppers were thick (that’s slang for being stupid where I spent my formative years) and that the stripes on their uniform indicated literacy levels. One stripe means that copper can read, two means can read and hold a crayon, three means can read, hold a crayon and form legible words with it. Are the Met really trying to say this case is too complicated for them?

That’s not just my belief. Go and watch the videos from the Phorm public meeting in April. See Dr Richard Clayton’s assertions that Phorm’s “product” is illegal. See Alex Hanff put Phorm into context.

Here’s a clarification for those people who might think this is all a storm in a teacup.

I’ll say it again: Phorm is a solution looking for a problem. It is not needed nor is it wanted. It is intrusive to the user and it offers nothing of benefit to the user. I say that as a user and a webmaster.

Published inbusinessInternetTechie